In an escalating dispute with aircraft manufacturer Airbus, Qatar Airways publicly released a video of a paint defect that has grounded 21 of its Airbus A350 aircraft and caused “cracking in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage,” according to the airline.
Qatar Airways is suing Airbus for more than $600 million in damages, which is roughly the cost of two A350 planes that the company has refused to take delivery of until the dispute is resolved.
The Doha-based airline has launched a complaint in London’s High Court, and attorneys representing Qatar Airways secured the right to an expedited hearing on Thursday, which is set to begin in late April.
During the first hearing, it was discovered that Airbus had canceled a multibillion-dollar agreement to provide Qatar Airways with 50 brand new A321neo planes, which were scheduled to begin deliveries in 2023. The action appears to be in response to the airline’s intention to file a lawsuit.
“We confirm that we are sticking to all of our duties under all applicable contracts,” Qatar Airways said on Friday, dismissing Airbus’ insistence that it must accept delivery of its A350 aircraft.
“It is, therefore, a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute.”
The paint flaw, according to Airbus, is purely cosmetic and does not pose a safety risk. Although Europe’s air safety regulation agrees with Airbus, Qatar’s civil aviation authority has taken the extraordinary step of grounding the implicated planes.
According to Airbus, Qatar Airways “acquiesced” with the national regulator since it was in their financial interests to keep the jets grounded.
“These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft’s lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged, another defect leaves the underlying composite structure exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light,” the airline insisted on Friday.
To back up its claims, the airline provided a video exhibiting peeling and cracking paint on some of its A350s.
Other A350 operators have had similar problems, but none have decided to ground their aircraft.
Airbus has stated that it will vigorously defend the lawsuit.